Other than learning that US Soccer really, really likes to make money, here's what we can glean from the
ten nine games of the World Cup Victory Tour.
1. The USWNT is more than ready to transition rosters
You could say this team has been ready for a change-up since the 2012 Olympics. But many key 2011 players kept soldiering on, visions of a World Cup dancing in their eyes. And who couldn't understand that motivation? To come within a hairsbreadth of taking the most coveted prize in soccer and losing it in the cruelest possible fashion - that would leave psychic scars on anyone. So Wambach and Rampone and Boxx kept playing past the time when it was necessary for them to play.
And partially because they've lingered, there are now a few areas in the team's development that are having to catch up to where they should be, particularly at defensive mid. You could argue that the United States is only solid at central defense because injury forced an earlier-than-expected call-up and education at the side of Becky Sauerbrunn for Julie Johnston. But defensive mid has been a case of shoehorning different players into the position until one did well enough to stick, and kudos to Morgan Brian for stepping up so well.
Forward has also been a bit of a revolving door, but even more so in this Victory Tour, which is actually an indicator that...
2. Jill Ellis is kind of committed to that transition
Ellis surprised a lot of people when she started calling up new names to the Victory Tour roster. Many, including me, thought she would limit the new faces to Crystal Dunn and perhaps one or two NWSL names, but she ended up calling in players like Jaelene Hinkle, Emily Sonnett, Rose Lavelle, and Lindsey Horan. And then she actually gave some of them minutes - while also opting to keep some players on the bench when it was assumed they would play.
Sonnett has been following in Johnston's footsteps and learning some tradecraft from Sauerbrunn (although Ellis did do that thing with Sonnett for one game where she tries a player out at defensive mid, just in case). Hinkle has been seeing quite a few minutes on the back line as well, and had a few good moments pushing forward.
Horan has long been a rallying cry from fans who want to see more variety in the US attack, and even though she was asked to be a box-to-box midfielder instead of a forward, she was given several games to show her quality on both sides of the ball. She was strong against Trinidad & Tobago, but not quite as able to push against China PR.
Stephanie McCaffrey is another new-ish player who got minutes and showed some potential, and could be in position to develop a partnership with Crystal Dunn on the right - although that begs the question of what becomes of Heather O'Reilly, who was pushed out wide left at points and didn't deliver her usual quality service because of it.
Then again you got players like Samantha Mewis and Danielle Colaprico who got called in and then were left to their own devices on the bench. Mewis got 18 minutes against Brazil in Seattle while Colaprico (who, to be fair, might have still been recovering from injury) got no time at all.
Ellis also allowed backup keepers Ashlyn Harris and Alyssa Naeher to get some minutes, tending to sub them in for halves around Hope Solo. But Naeher got a full 90 against China PR in Glendale and did well to preserve the clean sheet.
3. There's a lot of interesting talent that is going to come out of this transition
Based on who got playing time and who showed well, Ellis has a lot of options to take into Olympic qualifying, and then the four-nation tournament that will be hosted in the US before the Olympics proper. They're all young options as well, which could help set up the USWNT for at least the next four years, if not the next eight. This is fairly interesting since, before the tour, it seemed as though Crystal Dunn would be the only name in serious contention to make the Olympic qualifying roster.
Now, with retirement and some decent games under their belts, you might be able to make arguments for players like Horan or McCaffrey. Christen Press is certainly poised to be the attacking star of the team's future, especially if Alex Morgan can't get her feet back under her.
4. The team is ready to fight for what they want
They boycotted in Hawaii. Then Hope Solo gave a very sharp interview to Mother Jones about the boycott that hinted at the USWNT preparing itself for a battle with its federation. She came ready with facts and figures and you got the sense that the team had been doing its research long before Megan Rapinoe ever stepped off a bad practice field and tore her ACL.
It was obvious they were fed up since before the World Cup, but eventually subsided their grumbling in order to focus on the tournament. The tournament is over now, trophy safely in hand, and they're ready to get theirs. Both on the field and off the field, it's an exciting time to follow the USWNT.